Gallacher, Poulter, Westwood make Ryder Cup team
VIRGINIA WATER, England – Ultimately, it came down to a straight choice for European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley: Lee Westwood or Luke Donald. McGinley went for the more experienced Westwood to join Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher and England's Ian Poulter as his three wild-card picks to complete the 12-man European team to take on the U.S. later this month at Gleneagles.
It means no place for former World No. 1 Donald, a four-time Ryder Cup player with a 10-4-1 record in the biennial match.
“It was a very close call, but ultimately that little flourish of form that Lee showed around U.S. PGA (Championship) time and Firestone (for the WGC-Bridgestone) was a flourish that Luke wasn’t able to show,” said McGinley, referring to Westwood's consecutive top-20 finishes. “That’s what it came down to. I asked him through the media to show some form, that he wasn’t going to get in off past record, and he stepped up to the plate and produced.”
Westwood missed four cuts in a row before the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but then finished 19th there and 15th a week later in the PGA Championship. Donald placed 50th and 40th, respectively.
“Luke played very well and very consistent, but he didn’t have those green shoots of form that I saw from Lee,” McGinley said.
McGinley said telling Donald that he wouldn't be on the team was one of the toughest phone calls he has made. Donald made his Ryder Cup debut alongside McGinley, when the pair teamed up in 2004 to halve with Chris Riley and Stewart Cink in four-balls.
“It was a very difficult thing to do because of my personal relationship with Luke, the fact it goes back to his very first game in the Ryder Cup," McGinley said. "It was a very, very difficult and very tough phone call to make.”
McGinley made easier phone calls to Poulter and Gallacher. Poulter was a virtual certainty because of how he raises his game in the Ryder Cup. Gallacher showed his class in finishing 10th in the race for one of the nine automatic spots. The Scotsman needed to finish second in the Italian Open to earn a berthbut placed third, one stroke out of an automatic spot.
“The second-easiest decision for me was Stephen Gallacher,” McGinley said. “His performance last week was massive under pressure. I’ve been in that situation, and I can relate to it. He pushed himself over the line. I didn’t do Stevie a favor. He did himself a favor. He deserves a spot on this team. He should be very proud.”
Despite having a poor season – only two top-10s worldwide in 2014, and none since a T-6 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in early June – Poulter presented a logical choice.
“His performances in the Ryder Cup have been huge,” McGinley said. “He’s never shown a lot of form going into the Ryder Cup in the past, so I wasn’t that perturbed about seeing a lot of form from him.”
McGinley also considered Italy’s Francesco Molinari and The Netherland's Joost Luiten. However, Donald is the player who will feel most disappointed. He missed out in a photo finish.